Thursday, November 15, 2018

Wine tasting and lunch with Martin Smith at Paserene, Franschhoek

We were invited by PRO Caroline van Schalkwyk to visit Paserene wine farm in Franschhoek. Owned by Cellarmaster Viticulturist Martin Smith and his business partner Ndube Mareda, who say that their aim is to produce world-class wines with creativity and passion. They are close friends. And, at Paserene, there is Martin's passion for making the wine. A passerine is any bird of the order Passeriformes, the order of "travelling and free" birds which includes swifts and swallows. it gets its name from the Latin passer, which refers to sparrows and similar small birds
This is the impressive tasting room, with a terrace which overlooks a small lake
Inside, it is so well organised that everything is moveable, so it can also be used for functions or dinners
It has lovely views of the Simonsberg mountains. It is on what used to be La Chataigne farm (now on the other side of the road), from whom they purchased this part of the farm
They serve a gourmet cheese platter in the tasting room and, on a sunny day, you can enjoy tasting the wine with a platter on the terrace
The grounds have been very cleverly planted with indigenous plants like these Mesembryanthemums - called Vygies or small figs, locally
The view across the lake. This beautiful building was designed by Etienne Stols from SCS Architects
Time to taste some wine and meet the winemaker Martin Smith. Martin was born in Ashton and grew up in Worcester. He is a third generation winemaker. He graduated in winemaking and viticulture at Elsenberg. He then worked at Vriesenhof Vineyards. Spreading his wings, Martin spent five years at Cosentino Winery in California’s Napa Valley. Then, in 2006, his journey took him to Caldwell Winery, where he worked with many high-profile winemakers, such as Tim Mondavi and Philippe Melka. Wanting to return to South Africa, he was offered a job as wine-maker at Vilafonte, where he stayed for six years, before starting Paserene
Our table set for the tasting. We discovered that Martin was going to braai some beef loin for our lunch, which was to follow
Martin considers himself a precision wine maker. "I like wines with weight, wines with a lot of colour and tannin, but they need to have balance. I record everything, nothing is wasted and nothing is taken for granted". His labels tell the story of him and his journey through wine. He wants to illustrate a sense of place and people. Different artists design different labels. He says that each vintage will be labelled with another part in the journey and, one day, a book will show the whole journey. He is the swallow in flight, a testament to Martin’s adventures abroad and the need to spread his wings, all the while having a yearning to return home to create his nest – Paserene. He says he has fused the art of winemaking and South African art with his labels
We began with the 2016 Chardonnay. These grapes are from Elgin. He shares the source with Richard Kershaw; The vines are grown on koffieklip soil. The nose is beautifully integrated with fruit and floral notes, quite French in expression, clean fruit, nice fullness and some savouriness almost a hint of parmesan. Elegant and delicious, it is naturally fermented and spent 16 months in barrel where it went through malolactic fermentation. He says he is going to do a Tulbagh Chardonnay next and then some from Robertson. The first red was Paserene Union 2016, a blend from Tulbagh of 44% Syrah, 34% Carignan and 22% Mourvèdre. The nose is like a red jewel with pomegranate and red fruit notes, some sage and wood smoke. On the palate, silky soft with nice chalky tannins; a lovely texture. Ripe cherries with a little maraschino; nicely rounded with some salty liquorice. It ends in more fruit
You can learn more about the wines and the unusual labels by clicking on the link here.
Then, The Shiner. The plain bottle is spray painted with a stencil. A Cash getter and only made when the grapes are available. 80% Cabernet from Jordan with 13% Merlot from Overgaauw, 5% Petite Verdot from Glenelly and some Cab Franc to make up the 100%. It’s a classic Bordeaux blend; fruit forward, not too dark and serious with some herbal notes. Nice fruit on the palate; easy drinking, no faults, lighter than the usually heavy SA Bordeauxes, ending with soft chalky tannins. Next, the first vintage, 2013, of The Marathon. He was unable to use all Bordeaux varietals, so it has 50/50 Petite Verdot and Carménère from Philadelphia (a wine we don’t often see). Pretty notes of violets and Elderberry from the Petite Verdot; the complex heady notes from the Carménère. Green cassis leaves and herbs follow the fruit. On the palate, soft cherry berry fruit, soft chalky tannins. This needs time. It’s quite light weight at the moment, but the long flavours show that it will open up beautifully
Discussing the wines. The current vintage of the Marathon, 2016. Now a blend of 53% Cabernet Sauvignon, 42% Petit Verdot and 5% Carménère. Made in 50% 300 litre new oak barrels, and grown on quartz soil. A rich cabernet nose, both cassis berries and leaves, with minerality. Cherries come through with a swirl of the glass, as do quality and elegance. It is garnet red, soft and silky, full of fruit and more of those chalky tannins. The fruit is big, cassis, cherry, elderberry & mulberry, with long flavours. Delicious and ready now, but will reward with keeping
We were delighted to hear that Martin is considering making some Chenin into Sherry or port. We think SA might just be ready for some good, dry and complex sherry style wine. We think he is a very accomplished wine maker. We were very impressed by the wines
The glass' foot!
Tasting Room manager Billet Magara joined us for the tasting
Caroline van Schalkwyk of CVS Communications organised the day for us
The Franschhoek Tram calls at the farm, which seems to be popular with visitors
Our lunch about to go on the braai
The artist at work! Not a conventional braai, but it works, summer and winter
Hot coals doing their job
Testing for 'doneness'
Lynne chatting to a member of staff
The salads are ready; we just need that crème fraiche for the baked potatoes
First a platter of good bread, local cheeses and charcuterie
What to drink with lunch? Just what remains in our glasses from the tasting and what is in the decanters. More than enough
Caroline had made up her secret steak rub for us to add to the meat
Roasted gem squash and onions
A lovely mixed salad
Those roast potatoes
And the superbly cooked steak; smoky on the outside and beautifully pink within
A feast
Thank you to all at Paserene for a lovely day

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